Managing Director's Letter
This is our third annual Impact Report, and when I look at what we’ve shared in this letter before, and where we are today, it’s clear to me that both NatureVest and the broader market are making significant progress towards a future where all investing will be impact investing.
NatureVest continues to grow in approach and size; identifying opportunities to scale and replicate our existing products while continuously pushing existing market boundaries by developing new catalytic solutions. And, as we grow, the impact investing market is also expanding alongside us, enabling us to all celebrate an increasing number of deals creating real impact.
For the NatureVest team, tasked with directing private capital investment towards nature-based solutions and practices, we had exciting news, such as adding more than 1 million acres of U.S. forestland to TNC’s impact investing footprint. Or scaling up our Blue Bonds for Ocean Conservation model with a $364 million award-winning transaction in Belize, the largest of its kind to date and the first in Latin America. Or, for me personally, the recent privilege of taking on the role as NatureVest’s Managing Director.
But there’s also bad news. Really bad news. Across our planet, there are new developments that are deeply concerning: shocking wars, political instabilities, the threat of global recession, and alarming shifts in individual rights. This year even the “old” things get new versions, with endless coronavirus variants, acts of horrific violence, devastating weather events, and government and corporate seesawing on the most fundamental crises of our time.
These grim lists have become too common, and somehow, we have to process all of it. Acknowledging and owning these issues helps keep us clear about what’s at stake. Partners and stakeholders need to hear from one another that these issues are real and have a significant impact—and that these issues must shape our decisions and next steps.
Our most serious problems should set the agenda, but we can’t let them set the tone. Not when we can instead focus on solutions.
This brings me back to the NatureVest team. I have never been more excited about the work we are doing and the opportunities that we have to create real change in this world. And it simply comes down to people. This team, TNC as an organization, and the partners we work with represent the smartest, most creative and most dedicated professionals on earth.
NatureVest has added new roles and market-leading talent in the past year. We’ve significantly expanded our Impact Management Team, which supports our deals by applying conservation science to deliver real impact outcomes alongside financial returns. Our Origination Team is growing both in headcount and geographic scope, with new staff members sitting in Africa and Asia Pacific to develop a more robust transaction pipeline in those critically important conservation geographies. Our Sustainable Debt team has added capacity as TNC accelerates conversations with more and more governments seeking to finance—and realize—their conservation ambitions. And we have launched a new Sustainable Financial Advisory team focused on developing a broader suite of market solutions beyond traditional impact investment to support TNC’s conservation priorities.
This might sound strange, but alongside this growth, I see it as a good sign (though bittersweet) that we’re beginning to see more turnover. To me this means two things: first, the financial and corporate sectors are doubling down on ESG and investing heavily in experienced talent, directing more resources and support to this critically important space. Second, it means that TNC is succeeding in developing that talent and propagating a disciplined, outcome-driven, action-oriented approach in the market. I can’t overemphasize how important that last point is. With the boom in ESG, there are enormous risks of ineffective approaches, decisions that are made based on uninformed metrics, or outcomes that aren’t measured or attributed correctly. We see how well-intentioned capital is flowing into efforts that merely check a box or satisfy a desk analysis—instead, we need capital to flow into transactions that generate real, tangible impact.
To do that is extremely challenging and exactly why it is so exciting. Whether you track the science closely, or just know it in your bones, this work is compelling and rewarding.
If you’re with me here, then you’re with the entire NatureVest team and everyone at TNC. And we look forward to working with you.